How to light exterior pathways

We love our outdoor spaces in Australia, especially when the weather warms up! 

The multitude of opportunities to light exterior pathways are often overlooked. However, these zones are a crucial element within a lighting design as paths are what allow us to access and enjoy our beloved outdoor spaces well into the evening.

Safe passage to and from adjoining areas is always the first consideration when approaching the lighting design for a transitional space. The path should be clearly delineated, any stairs or changes in level must be easily identified, the blinding effects of glare must be avoided and other pedestrians should be visible.

Security comes next. No one likes to feel as though something is in the darkness nearby! Therefore it's advisable to also illuminate the nearby surroundings.

And finally, atmosphere. Atmosphere creates an experience and gives us the emotional connection the spaces we enjoy.

When approaching a new design, we should consider the above, along with the architectural structures available to us. 

Tips for lighting covered pathways

Covered walkways provide a wide variety of lighting options;

  • Overhead lighting: Lighting from above is an excellent way to ensure a pathway surface illuminates safely. Any changes in surface level are visible, and other pedestrians are easily recognisable. However, overhead lighting is the least effective when designing for atmosphere. Tip: Combine overhead lighting with other lighting methods to improve the atmosphere.
  • Wall mounting lighting: Wall mounting lighting offers the most flexibility for pathway illumination. Up and down luminaires combine the atmosphere of reflected illumination with the safety of direct light. Alternatively, ambient lantern styles provide excellent general lighting whilst also adding a decorative element to the area. Tip: Consider how your wall-mounted luminaires will look during the day and how they will perform at night.
  • Inground lighting: Inground lighting, or recessed up-lighters, are hidden by day and create a beautiful atmosphere by night. They are most effective when there is a solid cover above. The solid surface will allow the light they produce to reflect onto the pathway below. Tip: Only use inground uplights for pathway lighting when a solid surface reflects their light.

Tips for lighting open-air pathways

Open-air walkways require self-supported lighting mounted to the ground, e.g. a bollard, or lighting within surrounding landscaping elements.

  • Self-supported lighting: Bollards or Post Top luminaires light exterior pathways very well. They light the surface of the path and show any changes of level. However, the low position of the light source in a bollard means they are least useful for facial recognition in public spaces. Tip: Low-level Bollards are best suited to residential settings. 
  • Landscape lighting: Landscape structures such as retaining walls that border a pathway provide an opportunity to use step lights or brick lights to provide safe pathway lighting. The gardens they contain are our opportunity to add atmosphere through concealed spotlights to illuminate foliage, feature plants and the broader surrounds. Tip: Consider luminaires mounted within hard and soft landscape elements.


For further information or assistance in selecting luminaires to light exterior pathways, reach out to our friendly and knowledgeable team - contact us.